First Impressions (And A Rambly Look Back) With Demon’s Souls PS5
A big thing that happened over the course of the last week is that I managed to visit my brothers for the first time in a few weeks. The reason I open with this is that I managed to get some extended playtime on their PS5 for the first time since they bought it. Overall, I think it’s a neat system, but I’m ultimately not here to talk about that, but the game I played on it: the Demon’s Souls remake. This is gonna be an interesting one because of the way that it handles the method of it remaking the original.
The original version of Demon’s Souls was a PS3 exclusive developed by FromSoftware (at that point known mostly for Armored Core and Tenchu) that was published in Japan by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan and by Atlus everywhere else in the world after Sony refused to do so. It was an action RPG that drew a lot of people’s attention back in the day for its difficulty in a time when games were kind of really easy, focusing on more cinematic and narrative experiences as opposed to mechanical challenges, at least from a single-player perspective. I was interested and wanted to give it a chance, but I was broke and had just graduated high school at the time. I actually didn’t get into the game until two years later after getting it at a pawn shop for $5. I didn’t get far initially because I thought it was super hard, but then I played Dark Souls a few months after it came out, loved it and went “oh I get these games now” and have been a shameless advocate for them since.
The reason I went into that little history lesson is that going back to Demon’s Souls after playing all of From’s later games over the course of the last almost decade and a half has been super interesting. You can very easily see where a lot of the ideas, mechanics, themes, aesthetics, narrative motifs and stylings all come from. But at the same time, it’s also a version of these games where Hidetaka Miyazaki, the director of the Souls series, and co-director of Bloodborne, Sekiro, and Elden Ring, hadn’t really gotten his feet wet in regards to really letting his influences (namely his tradition of paying homage and tribute to the Dark Fantasy manga Berserk by the late Kentaro Miura) shine through. As a result, it leads to Demon’s Souls feeling very restrained and muted in comparison to the other games.
A good example of this is that the entire game is level-based as opposed to being an open world. This more segmented approach means that there’s a more finite difficulty curve, but it’s offset by the fact that you can go to all of the levels in any order due to each area having its own set of levels. And some of these areas are much more difficult than others. Normally I’d consider this an issue, but this leads to the best and worst thing about the remake: It’s a complete 1:1 translation of the original Demon’s Souls. Same items locations, same drop rates, same balancing, same enemies and bosses, and more. It seriously needs to be commended because the game is just as I remember it. And that’s the downside of it. It’s just as I remember it; this means that if you have played Demon’s Souls already, then there’s no need for you to get this. It also leads to the unforeseen side effect of the game being really easy because of all of the experience you’ve gotten over the years of playing these as I have.
I will say this though: the game is absolutely stunning. The team at Bluepoint Games managed to take the originally very dark looking game and make it look extra brutal at 4K and a locked 60 Frames Per Second (plus it’s nice to play Demon’s at a consistent framerate finally). This and me making a new save on the PS5 version of the FF7 remake made me get why some people are so invested in 4K TVs, these things make the media they were made for look amazing. This increased resolution really goes a long way towards making the game’s wonderfully messed up art style look even more messed up. But if there’s one issue I have with it, it’s that I remember there being this thick layer of fog covering a lot of the areas that isn’t there anymore. Though I think that’s more my brain misremembering stuff than anything else, it felt weirdly evocative of the pale fog that was sweeping through the land of Boletaria.
Overall, Demon’s Souls on PS5 has been an interesting experience so far. As a game, it’s aged decently enough, but as a starting point to a style of video game that I adore? It’s been an interesting history lesson so far because I can see the ideas taking their nascent forms here and it’s wonderful. If you’re curious, check it out in a sale. You won’t regret it.